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Why Do Cats Like Running Water? 4 Likely Reasons

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

cat drinking in the faucet

Most cats can barely contain themselves around running water, which may strike some cat fans as strange, given the general feline dislike of human-initiated activities involving water. But many cats who howl in protest just at the idea of having to take a bath love to drink and use their paws to bat at running water. So, what’s behind this adorable feline behavior? The simple answer is cats are naturally drawn to running water because it tends to be cleaner than standing water in nature. Keep reading to learn more about the four reasons why cats like running water so much.

The 4 Reasons Why Cats Like Running Water

1. It’s Often Clean

Stagnant water attracts bacteria and parasites in natural environments. Running water, such as in creeks and streams, is usually much cleaner. Cats are drawn to running water partly because consuming clean water is essential for survival.

This strong feline preference for running water is one of the reasons many indoor cats with standard water bowls don’t drink quite as much as they should. Water fresh from the tap is often cool, tasty, and free of debris or bacteria lurking in your pet’s water bowl.

2. It’s Easy for Cats to Find

Cats have difficulty seeing far away and within a few feet of their noses. But they have fantastic night vision and can pick up on subtle movements in low light, which serves them well as crepuscular hunters.

Cats rely more on senses such as hearing and smell than sight when navigating the world. They can pinpoint sounds within inches from feet away. Cats can use their ears to locate running water, often making it easy to find.

ragdoll cat walking through water
Image Credit: whitejellybeans, Shutterstock

3. It Doesn’t Interfere With Their Whiskers

Cats have incredibly sensitive whiskers. Each whisker provides information to sensory nerves connected directly to the brain. Because cats don’t have fantastic nearby vision, they rely on sound and the vibrations picked up through their whiskers to locate and pounce on prey directly underfoot.

Whiskers even help cats navigate in the dark. As cats move through the night, their bodies produce subtle air currents which bounce off surrounding objects. Cats use their whiskers to feel and interpret these changes to find their way in the dark. Eating and drinking from narrow or deep bowls that brush against cats’ whiskers can result in irritation and pain over time. Cats sometimes gravitate towards drinking from running water sources like faucets, as they can get fresh water without irritating their whiskers.

4. It’s Fun to Play With

Cats are often drawn to watching and interacting with running water because it involves movement, which usually triggers their interest. Many cats can spend hours watching water drip from faucets. Some even stick out a paw to bat at drops as they fall. Others enjoy allowing water to dribble over their heads.

The drops keep coming at seemingly random intervals, making them fascinating for cats. Many also enjoy watching the drops break apart after hitting the sink.

cat drinking tap water from the faucet
Image Credit: jaroslavzelenka0, Pixabay

How Cat Fountains Fit Into the Picture

Cat fountains provide a simple way to encourage cats to drink more water. Sufficient water intake is essential for optimum feline health, but companion cats often don’t drink enough to stay in top condition. Increased water intake often helps cats with conditions such as chronic kidney disease and those who suffer from recurrent bladder and urinary tract issues.

Many cats prefer drinking running water, which is easy to provide with a cat fountain. Some cats may drink less from regular bowls if they’ve accumulated buildup that makes the contents taste off. However, most fountains recycle water through a filter to keep things fresh and tasty and provide plenty of whisker space.

Water fountains can really help your cat drink more water, but finding the right one can be a challenge. Our Hepper Stainless Steel Cat Water Fountain will keep your cat safe and hydrated with its advanced triple filtration system and large capacity. It's easy to clean in the dishwasher and offers three different flow modes and an automatic shutoff. 

hepper fountain

Why Do Cats Avoid Some Water Bowls?

Cats avoid water bowls for several reasons, including the water’s taste and the pain of whisker fatigue. Plastic water bowls often absorb bacteria over time and can become unhygienic. Chipped ceramic options present the same problem. Stainless steel products are easy to keep clean and can even be thrown in the dishwasher. Wash your cat’s dish daily with soap and hot water to keep bacteria and buildup under control.

Cats also avoid drinking from bowls when it irritates their whiskers. Because feline whiskers are so sensitive, they often become inflamed and sore when repeatedly stimulated by brushing against the sides of drinking and eating bowls. You can purchase short, wide bowls that provide enough room for cats to drink without moving their whiskers.


Most cats love running water, which is true even for those who generally despise getting wet. Cats are naturally drawn to drinking running water because it tends to be cleaner in natural environments where standing water often contains bacteria and parasites. Cats can also locate running water using their powerful hearing, so it’s incredibly easy for them to find. Many cats enjoy sipping water from the tap as it’s clean and fresh and doesn’t bother their sensitive whiskers like some water bowls can. Also, some felines bat at the water as it drips from the faucet because it engages their curiosity and desire to have fun!

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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